There is no doubt that all eyes in the gaming industry are now on Microsoft, set to unveil its next generation Xbox console tomorrow. The move will hopefully put an end to all the recent rumors about the console’s features and confirm or deny reports that the next Xbox will embrace free-to-play gaming, along with its main rival, Sony’s PlayStation 4.

So, while we join the rest of the world in waiting for the big Xbox reveal, let’s take a look at how next generation consoles could support free-to-play gaming and what that might mean for the gaming industry.

Will Next Xbox, PS4 Embrace Free-to-Play Gaming?

Screenshot of MMO DC Universe Online, available for PS3.

News of this feature in both consoles was revealed by Epic Games Vice President Mark Rein almost two weeks ago. Rein said that the next Xbox and PlayStation 4 will fully embrace free-to-play games and the in-app purchase business model. Rein insisted that although there is no official confirmation of this fact, both Microsoft and Sony are already discussing this feature with game developers.

This is not something entirely new for either of the two consoles, as their previous models are already supporting free-to-play games such as Happy Wars, DC Universe Online and Free Realms, the recently launched Dust 514 and others.

But Rein’s statement suggests that both Microsoft and Sony are looking at ways to increase the prevalence of free titles for the upcoming next generation consoles. And this is not necessarily bad news, as free-to-play games have gone a long way in terms of quality recently.

While Microsoft has not yet announced any plays for free-to-play titles for the next Xbox, it is nonetheless known to be interested in this segment, having developed last year’s aviation game Microsoft Flight as a free title.

Sony has been more open on the topic and announced that they will consider any revenue models that may work for the PS4. Sony Worldwide Studios head Shuhei Yoshida also confirmed that his studio was working on a free-to-play title for the PlayStation 4, but revealed no other details.

We are expecting to find out more about Microsoft’s intentions at the Xbox event tomorrow. Sony will probably make available more information very soon, as we are nearing the PlayStation 4 launch this fall. Until then, what do you think of Rein’s comments? Is the spread of free-to-play games something you favor? Has their quality advanced so much that free titles may become a threat to already established games?

[Image via Games screenshots]